Religion meets reality

One of David's hot button issues is atheism. While he doesn't scream and shout the same way I do about my issues, it is one he feels passionate about. So when he finds himself in conversation about it, it reverberates and the conversation later spills out to me. I listen - I understand what it means to have that kind of reaction to something you hold so dearly.

I don't mind. I think his atheism was more hard won than mine, as he grew up in a religious family. Mine, not so much. My mother's later conversion to Mormonism exasperated me, but by that time, I'd realized the futility of arguing religion with her. I was confused about atheism for a while and it took me awhile to come to grips with it. But the arguments against God presented in my Philosophy class a few years ago made more sense than the ones for God. And after a bit of an emotional scuffle, that was it.

Like many things, it is not something he can share with his family, outside of his brother. I sometimes wonder what that is like, if it is lonely. But it would cause far more trouble than it is worth.

Funnily enough, his parents are just fine with their children tabletop roleplaying - as long as you don't bring up the topic of Dungeons and Dragons. Every other form is fine, but somehow D&D is the work of the devil. It's both amusing and confusing.

They initially felt the same way about Magic the Gathering and Harry Potter. David and his brother finally wrangled his parents into watching them play a game MTG, which reassured them that they were not calling up the forces of darkness in laying out cards. Harry Potter, after they saw the first movie, was something they found they liked. They are now avid fans of the series.

If one is able to change their minds about those things, why not other things? Why not expand the ability to be open to things? They are obviously able to, they just don't want to. I don't get it, but again, not worth pushing it.

His parents (and by proxy his sister) are polite enough to not bring up the subject around me. And I have never been foolish enough to bring it up around them. That's not a conversation I want to get into with them.

His dad believes in some pretty far-out stuff. Ghosts that are demons, possession, end of the world claptrap. David says when he was young, he attended meetings with his father that discussed survival in the end times. It must have been very weird. His father is also one of those naturalist nuts, to the point where he simply wanted to give David some vitamins when his gallbladder failed.

Thankfully, his mother is more sensible and kept David in the hospital.

They are very nice people. They don't display signs of active racism, classism, or homophobia. I'm sure those subjects make them uncomfortable, but I've never heard or seen them do anything to demean those groups. And they are friendly and like helping people.

They have always treated me kindness and open arms. But there is much in the way I could never share with them. They wouldn't handle it well coming from their own children, so introducing it as an outsider would not be a good idea.

I did attend church with my family as a child, though I think they went more for the support than for the religion. It was a pretty laid back church, no sermons of hellfire and damnation. They focused on community and the happy teachings of the Bible.

But I never felt quite accepted, quite comfortable, quite safe around those people. The adults scared me a little and the other children, happier and more trendy than I, weren't people I could relate to. Even there (and on the endless tween church camps and retreats I attended) I found myself befriending the other misfits and clamming up around the other kids. I don't remember thinking that there was anything wrong with me, just that I hadn't found home yet.

At 13 I met a dear friend of mine, Maitreya, whose family had raised him Buddhist. By 15 I was reading books on Wicca and by 17 had moved into a strong, but undefined, New Age motif. I stayed there for a long time, but I really feel like I applied critical thinking to the ideas, a fluidity that helped the later atheism be less painful.

It never felt like I was rejecting anything. That I was pushing myself away or turning away from what I'd been taught. It all just felt like a learning process. AA and NA worked very well with the New Age philosophy and I credit them for a lot of the spiritual process I moved through. But now - and for a few years now - the spiritual part of the program makes me uncomfortable, as I am no longer there.

Cassie asked me about the spiritual aspect of AA a few times. I told her what had helped me then and recommended that she speak to another member of AA about how to work it in her current life. I don't know if I've ever said the word "atheist" in her company. But she's smart and I'm sure she picked it up. Which is fine, she never asked me about it directly.

Curiously enough, once my mother began attending Alanon (when I was very young, probably 7 or 8), I felt much more safe and accepted there. The other kids were just as screwy as me and they didn't hide it. We were very active in our local branch of AA, from childhood well up unto my teen years.

I often say I grew up in AA, as that became my parent's main source of support as I got older. And when my own addiction became unavoidable, I knew where to go.

Funny, how they were just fine with me spilling out all of our family secrets in the meeting rooms - but therapy was unthinkable. I suppose they thought that anonymity clause would protect them. But I eventually realized that meetings weren't enough and sought professional help.

It hurt, but I remember having a furious sense of self-righteousness. A deserved one, considering the abuse. I remember feeling it all the time as a teenager, trying to get away from them, in a way that only occasionally flares up now. Healthier, as living your life in that constant fire leaves little energy for anything else. But I was a teenager, had no responsibilities, and an army of grown-ups around me supporting me and my decisions.

Sometimes I really miss that. The grown ups. I'm my own grown up now and it doesn't always feel right. I miss the validation that came with grown ups. I guess that's the way it is for a lot of people.

It is 6 AM. I've plenty to do. Housework, a new Pilates workout, catching up on various sites. It's a good day.

It's going to be a good day.